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World Cup 1978: Tunisia

World Cup 1978: Tunisia

In 1990 Cameroon were rightly lauded for their swashbuckling run to the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup. Their flair, power and pace impressed and surprised in equal measure. Many regard Cameroon’s excellent World Cup in Italy as the breakthrough moment for African football. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story as in the late 1970s Tunisia, one of the best teams in Africa, played some wonderful football in Argentina’s 78 World Cup. Their short pass and move game may have been world’s away from the powerful game Cameroon adopted twelve years later but it was almost as effective.

QUALIFICATION 1977: EGYPT 4-1

Thirteen years before Italia 90, Tunisia were preparing for their final World Cup qualifying match against north African rivals Egypt. After picking up four points from their games against Nigeria and losing away in Cairo, Tunisia knew that only a win in Tunis would be enough to seal their place in the World Cup Finals as sole African representative. And win they did, in style, defeating the Egyptians 4-1 in front of a partizan crowd. Those who feel atmosphere at football is calmed negatively by an Athletics track should take a look at the celebrations following Tunisia’s 3rd that effectively qualified the nation for their first ever World Cup Finals. The track merely gave players a place to celebrate and for cameramen to frolic in.

WORLD CUP 1978 GROUP B: MEXICO 3-1

Tunisia in 1978 were only the fourth African side to play in a World Cup Finals – after Egypt (1930), Morocco (1970) and Zaire (1974). None of these sides had performed particularly well in their outings, the only bright spot a Moroccan draw with Bulgaria in Mexico 1970. The Carthage Eagles would record a couple of firsts for Africa in this tournament. They were the first country to be managed by an African at a World Cup (Abdelmajid Chetali) and they also became the first African nation to win a game at a World Cup Finals when they came from behind to beat Mexico by three goals to one.

WORLD CUP 1978 GROUP B: POLAND 0-1

Despite winning their first match the Tunisians were always going to find qualification to the next stage tough as they found themselves not only up against current world champions West Germany but also Poland who had finished third in the previous World Cup. Tunisia’s second game was against a Polish side including Lato and Boniek and as expected they lost, but only narrowly by a solitary Grzegorz Lato goal to nil. There was certainly no shame in this defeat, as the mighty Brazil had lost in the World Cup ;74 third placed match by the same scoreline (to the same goalscorer). However, the Tunisians will always wonder what could have been. Late in the game they almost scored what would have become an all time classic World Cup goal. Unfortunately the ball hit the underside of the bar and bounced the wrong side of the line.

WORLD CUP 1978 GROUP B: WEST GERMANY 0-0

The unfortunate Tunisians came up against the current World Cup holders West Germany in their final group game and gave a good account of themselves. A sterling 0-0 draw with goalkeeper Mokhtar Naili making some fine saves wearing what appear to be brown leather gloves. The scoreless draw wasn’t enough for Tunisia to progress to the next stage but it was enough for the Tunisians to cement their place in African football history. West Germany and Poland qualified in first and second place.

NUMBER 10: TARAK DHIAB

The 1978 World Cup goes down as Tunisia’s best World Cup performance to date. Inspired by 1977 Africa Footballer of the Year Tarak Dhiab the side almost managed to shock the world by sneaking through the group stages. Dhiab played over one hundred times for Tunisia and played his last international in 1990 as a 36 year old, captaining his country against England  who were warming up for Italia 90. Just like West Germany twelve years before, England didn’t heed the African warning and were almost undone in the quarter finals by the Indomitable Lions. Despite often playing in differing styles the threat from north Africa remains just as strong as from the sub-Saharans.

Flickr Photo Credit: philippelemoine

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Africa, International

 

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Who will win Euro 2012?


The European Championships are now only a few days away, so we at Spirit of Mirko have decided to predict the entire tournament. Rather than predicting the results by analysing each individual side, their players, formations, recent form, we have decided to use hard, cold facts. So, for this set of predictions we have used the previous meeting for each side to predict which side will win.

Group A

Greece 0 – 0 Poland (29/3/2011)

Russia 3 – 3 Czech Republic (19/6/1996)

Greece 1 -0 Czech Republic (1/7/2004)

Poland 2 – 2 Russia (22/8/2007)

Greece 1 – 1 Russia (11/11/2011)

Poland 0 – 2 Czech Republic (10/10/2009)

Group A is won by Euro 2004 winners Greece on a fittingly meagre 5 points, in second place it’s Czech Republic on 4 points. Russia finish 3rd with 3 points and exit the competition after not losing a game, whilst hosts Poland bow out at the group stage on 2 points.

Group B

Netherlands 2 – 0 Denmark (14/6/2010)

Germany 3 – 2 Portugal (19/6/2008)

Denmark 2 – 1 Portugal (11/10/2011)

Netherlands 0 – 3 Germany (15/11/2011)

Denmark 2 – 2 Germany (11/8/2010)

Portugal 1 – 0 Netherlands (25/6/2006)

Unsurprisingly Germany top Group B after picking up seven points from their three games. In second place it’s Denmark with four points. Netherlands and Portugal are out before the knock out stages have even begun after finishing with three points apiece.

Group C

Spain 1 – 2 Italy (10/8/2011)

Ireland 0 – 0 Croatia (10/8/2011)

Italy 0 – 2 Croatia (16/8/2006)

Spain 1 – 1 Ireland (15/6/2002)

Croatia 1 – 2 Spain (7/6/2006)

Italy 0 – 2 Ireland (7/6/2011)

A shock in Group C as two draws and a win against Italy is enough to see Ireland finish as group winners. Second spot in the group goes to Spain on four points who sneak through by virtue of their head to head with Croatia. Italy finish rock bottom on three points.

Group D

France 2 – 1 England (17/11/2010)

Ukraine 1 – 1 Sweden (9/2/2011)

Ukraine 1 – 4 France (6/6/2011)

Sweden 0 – 1 England (15/11/2011)

England 0 – 1 Ukraine (10/10/2009)

Sweden 2 – 3 France (20/8/2008)

France win their group with a storming nice points from a possible nine. Local interest in the tournament is maintained as hosts Ukraine sneak through in second place on four points. England finish third with three points and the Swedes last with a solitary point.

Quarter Finals

Greece 1 – 2 Denmark (AET) (11/2/2009) & (8/10/2005)

Germany 0 – 3 Czech Republic (17/10/2007)

Ireland W/O Ukraine

France 0 – 2 Spain (3/3/2010)

In February 2009 Greece and Denmark fought out a 1-1 friendly draw, so you have to go further back in time to 2005 to find an occasion where a positive result was gained. Denmark defeated Greece in a World Cup qualifier – enough to get them through to the semi-finals of Euro 2012. In qualifying for Euro 2008 Czech Republic achieved an impressive 3-0 victory over Germany. That’s enough to see them through to the final four.

Interestingly Ukraine and Ireland have never met in a senior international. Therefore we have to fall back on the trusty FIFA world rankings that predict the 18th-placed Irish would see off the 50th placed Ukraine. Ireland through to the semi-finals. Spain‘s 2-0 win over France in a friendly in March 2010 is enough for them to make up the last spot in the semi-finals.

Semi Finals

Denmark 0 – 4 Ireland (22/8/2007)

Czech Republic 1 – 2 Spain (25/3/2011)

Ireland make it to the final of a major tournament for the first time by virtue of their 4-0 friendly victory in August 2007 (bear with me..). Ireland will face Spain who saw off the Czech Republic 2-1 (qualifier for Euro 2012).

Final

Ireland 1 – 1 – Spain [Spain win on penalties] – (15/6/2002)

Heart-break for Ireland as Spain win a third consecutive major honour. Spain’s penalty shoot-out win from the 2002 World Cup is enough to hand them the European Championships. Well done Spain.

 

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in International

 

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Euro 2012 squad analysis: Part Two


Rather than bombard you all with information I thought I’d split the Euro 2012 squad analysis into two parts. I’ll try and concentrate more on the players than the squads in this section.

Top goalscorers per nation

  • Croatia – Eduardo (22)
  • Czech Republic – Milan Baros (40)
  • Denmark – Dennis Rommedahl (21)
  • England – Wayne Rooney (28)
  • Spain – Fernando Torres (27)
  • France – Karim Benzema (13)
  • Germany – Miroslav Klose (63)
  • Greece – Thofanis Gekas (21)
  • Holland – Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (31)
  • Italy – Daniele De Rossi & Antonio Di Natale (10)
  • Ireland – Robbie Keane (54)
  • Poland – Robert Lewandowski (13)
  • Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo (32)
  • Russia – Roman Pavlyuchenko (20)
  • Sweden – Zlatan Ibrahimovic (29)
  • Ukraine – Andriy Schevchenko (46)

Most capped players per nation

  • Croatia – Josip Šimunić (93)
  • Czech Republic – Petr Cech (89)
  • Denmark – Dennis Rommedahl (113)
  • England – Ashley Cole (93)
  • Spain – Iker Casillas (129)
  • France – Florent Malouda (74)
  • Germany – Miroslav Klose (114)
  • Greece – Giorgos Karagounis (115)
  • Holland – Rafael van der Vaart (94)
  • Italy – Gianluigi Buffon (113)
  • Ireland – Shay Given (121)
  • Poland – Dariusz Dudka (61)
  • Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo (88)
  • Russia – Sergei Ignashevich (73)
  • Sweden – Anders Svensson (126)
  • Ukraine – Antoliy Tymoshchuk (114)

England’s Ashley Cole with 93 caps is the most capped player at Euro 2012 who is yet to score a goal for his country. The other outfield players that have over 40 caps who have yet to score for their country include Yuri Zhirkov (Russia), Aleksei Berezutski (Russia), Danijel Pranjic (Croatia) and Tomáš Hübschman (Czech Republic). Other notable players who have yet to break their international duck include Patrice Evra (39 caps, France), Sergio Bisquets (38 caps, Spain), Stewart Downing (33 caps, England), James Milner (24 caps, England), Simon Kjaer (22 caps, Denmark).

Despite being only 27, Lukas Podolski has amassed 95 international caps for Germany, yet Custódio of Portugal is 29 years old, yet is still to make his international début. Similarly Ukraine substitute keeper Oleksandr Horyainov is 36 years old, yet has only played one full international match.

There are seven players who are younger than 20 years old in the tournament. 19 year olds Jores Okore (defender, Denmark), Rafal Wolski (midfielder, Poland), Kostas Fortounis (midfielder, Greece), Marksym Koval (goalkeeper, Ukraine), Jack Butland (goalkeeper, England) and 18 year olds Jetro Willems (defender, Holland) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (midfielder, England). If Jetro Willems scores during the tournament he will be the youngest ever player to score in the European Championship finals, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the second youngest player at Euro 2012, is too old to take the record. The current holder of that record Johan Vonlanthen retired last week at the tender age of 26.

 

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2012 in International, Statistics

 

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Euro 2012: Squad analysis


The sixteen nations have now named their twenty-three man squads for Euro 2012. Three hundred and sixty-eight players will travel to the tournament in Poland & Ukraine, some experienced, some young, some with over hundred caps, some with none or very few.

The following table shows a list of Euro 2012 countries, the total number of caps in their squad, the average caps per player, the number of international goals scored by the squad, the average number of goals scored per player and finally the average goals per cap scored.

Euro 2012 nations, caps and goals

Euro 2012 nations, caps and goals

The most experienced squad in the tournament are the current holders Spain with 984 caps (it’s likely that figure will reach 1000 after all pre-tournament friendlies have been played). This figure was reached despite losing the vastly experienced David Villa before the tournament even began.

France’s recent travails are reflected in Laurent Blanc’s squad. Despite having a large range of undoubtedly talented players they are inexperienced at international level. Only Poland have fewer caps on average than the French (20.174 per player for Poland in comparison to 20.261 for France).

The goalscoring statistics are interesting in that the squads of Italy, France and Poland have all scored less than 50 international goals. To put that into some context, Robbie Keane has scored 54. Unsurprisingly the prolific Klose and Podolski have helped Germany to first place in the international goals (184).

There are twelve players with over 100 caps, goalkeepers Iker Casillas, Gianluifi Buffon and Shay Given, defender Olof Mellberg, midfielders Girogos Karagounis, Xavi, Antoliy Tymoschchuk and forwards Robbie Keane, Miroslav Klose, Dennis Rommedahl and Andriy Schevchenko.

There are ten uncapped players who have been named in squads this summer. Russian defenders Vladimir Granat and Kirill Nababkin from Dynamo Moscow and CSKA Moscow respectively are included in Russia’s final 23. Portugal include two uncapped players both from Braga, Custódio and Miguel Lopes. Custódio is the oldest uncapped player involved in Euro 2012, he turned 29 last week. Holland include uncapped forward Luciano Narsingh in their squad whilst Italy have called up midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini. A few countries have unsurprisingly taken along an uncapped third keeper, England take Jack Butland, Ukraine have Maksym Koval, Croatia have Ivan Kelava and Denmark called up Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel after their number one choice Thomas Sorenson was injured in training.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2012 in European, International

 

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